The Thrill

I'm writing from Copenhagen where I just played with guitarist Peter Tinning and bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson on the jazz festival. We are playing a couple of more concerts tomorrow and then off to Aarhus, where I've never been. I had a blast today, but later on the phone someone reminded me of my days with Ant Man Bee back in Norfolk, Virginia. They said something like "it's a lot different from Ant Man Bee" and I thought, yes it is.

But is it, really? It got me thinking about the essence of what it is that I do. There are many ways to look at this, but when I perform I'm basically communicating in some way with an audience. If it goes well, there is a connection, just like when a stand-up comic makes people laugh.

And then we went to see our friend Richard Andersson play with a brilliant quartet featuring the German clarinetist Rudi Mahall. This guy had all the musicians in the house laughing. He's a great musician but he's constantly making what I call musical jokes, and this is one of the ways he connected with us.

Somehow watching Mahall and thinking about Ant Man Bee the two things intersected in my brain. I realized how fortunate I was to be in that band at that time. Imagine I'm 16 years old and suddenly I'm playing to packed clubs of college kids who can't seem to get enough of our music. It was a thrill. I can remember driving home after those shows and feeling a sense of elation (without pharmaceuticals mind you). It was a feeling that I had shared an experience with my band-mates and the audience that was unique, and that I had been a part of the circuitry of that connection. It was hard to fall asleep afterwards. Kind of like a musical double-espresso.

Now that I play mostly jazz, and the college kids are less prone to stage-diving at my shows, I feel the same way. Of course there are off nights… or mediocre nights, as there were with Ant Man Bee or with any performer, but that feeling of connection happens more often than not. For that I am truly grateful.

For the love of free

If you're one of those people who likes free things… here are two:

First, the track "Waking" from my new album "Remote Location" is featured on as a free download here.

Second, my song "Icelandic Poptune" is available free here. It features Sunna Gunnlaugs on Wurlitzer and Eivind Opsvik on bass.


Remote Location

On August 28th I'll be releasing my 2nd album "Remote Location" on the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. It has been a long time coming, and I can honestly say that I'm incredibly proud of it. The pieces are all somehow very dear to me, as are the people that played/worked on this project with me.

I'm not going to go into much detail about it here, as I wrote quite an essay in the extended liner notes that accompanies the download of the album here. But I will say that I was wonderfully lucky to have the right people around me, and without them it wouldn't have turned out nearly as well.

I don't have the CDs yet, but you can download the album and pre-order a CD right now on Bandcamp. I'm even offering a free download of my debut album "Found Music" to the first 50 pre-orders. Quite a deal.

Brimming in Bremen

Truthfully, I'm not really a conference-going kind of guy. However, I had a blast at Jazz Ahead in Bremen, Germany last week. Having gone there to perform with the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio, it was nice to have the show to look forward to amidst all the schmoozing. Not that I don't like to schmooze, but it does take a lot of energy. I think especially when the subject matter of your schmoozing is your art, there is a level of emotional investment that can be exhausting.

I was walking around the convention center for a day and a half talking to festival organizers and booking agents on Sunna's behalf, but I was also a secret agent for ASA Trio. It was a learning experience for sure.

We had the privilege and honor to perform at Sendesaal, which people routinely reminded me was where one of Keith Jarrett's amazing solo albums was recorded. The expectations were high, and we were not disappointed. The acoustics in the room are so perfect it's eerie. And the drums I got were ridiculously nice: a set of Sonor Delite's with a vintage Phonic snare.

At the convention there is a lot of talk about trading bands amongst the various countries' music export organizations. As in, if we book a band from Iceland, you book a band from our country. It got me thinking about the possibilities of this sort of thing. Right now the attitude is pretty rough, like "what's in it for my country?" But this could develop into a jazz artist residency whereby each participating country agrees to host a visiting musician who would then collaborate with the locals on a project. Just a thought.

But I have to say, I was very encouraged to see all the different countries going all-out for their brand of jazz. The music is important and the people and nations that took part in Jazz Ahead seem to realize its value.

Another Album in the Works

Since moving to Iceland, I've been collecting material for another album. Ironically, the closer I get to the recording date, the more ideas I get for new tunes.

I was scheduled to record late last month at Sundlaug (the Sigur Rós studio), but they had a pipe burst which has put them out of commission for a while. This lead to some other developments: I felt more comfortable bringing in new material for the band, I switched studios, and I feel more prepared for the recording. We are going to record next week in Salurinn, the concert hall in Kópavogur where we recorded "Long Pair Bond." Engineer Kjartan Kjartansson will be with us again, and I'm hoping this will be an extension of the LPB sound.

I can't put into words how excited I am about recording another album of my own. It's about time.

Long Pair Bond

After reading the title of this post, you're probably asking yourself "what the heck is a Long Pair Bond?" If so, you probably don't follow me on Twitter.

Long Pair Bond is the upcoming trio album from my wife, pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs. I'm a little sketchy on the meaning, although Sunna has an explanation on her website.

Needless to say, I'm the drummer on the album. Well, I suppose she could've gotten a different drummer for it, (she has threatened to hire Joey Baron on more than one occasion) but to date I'm the only drummer she has recorded with. This is our seventh album together.

I wanted to blog about it from my perspective. However, I can't give too much away as we're also doing a Kickstarter campaign for it and one of the rewards is a DVD/extended liner notes which will have the whole back-story with interviews and video from the recording session. You can hear 3 pre-release tracks over at the Kickstarter page.

Number 7 is a very special album for a number of reasons. First of all, it's trio. You have to go all the way back to 1997 (the year we were married) to her debut album Far Far Away to find another album of hers without a saxophonist.

It's also the first time since '97 that she's recorded someone's music other than hers or mine. There are three such examples of that on this album. Our bassist Þorgrímur "Toggi" Jónsson contributed a beautiful tune, and we adapted tunes by Rufus Wainwright and Ben Harper. Both of those were unusual choices that challenged us to think differently.

For me personally, it's special in that it's the first album we've done where I used the vintage Sonor drumset I've had for the last 5 years. In fact, the only other session we've done where I used my drums was for Mindful/Songs from Iceland, but honestly, I wasn't crazy about those drums and the drum sound on those albums is not totally what I was going for. This is the first time I feel like I'm hearing my real sound, and our engineer Kjartan Kjartansson did an amazing job at capturing that. He's a drummer himself and he knows me really well, both in regard to how I play and what I like to hear in mixing sessions. That made this a new kind of recording experience for me, and I'm excited that we're about to share it with the world on Nov. 12th at the London Jazz Festival. Hope you can make it.

Up in the Air

In the movie "Up in the Air" George Clooney's character finds himself in a profession that requires him to travel constantly. But he doesn't grow weary of the airports. Quite the contrary; he revels in the lifestyle, obsessing over frequent flyer miles like a kid collecting baseball cards.

I'm not quite there yet, but over the last two weeks or so, I've been aboard 7 airplanes. Returning back to Iceland after a wonderful trip to visit and perform in Virginia, I had only two days before boarding a plane to Amsterdam. Once back in Iceland, I flew to Washington DC after 3 days. As a father and musician, this is a surreal blend of sorrow and exhilaration. On the one hand, going away from my wife and two precious daughters is emotionally taxing. But on the other hand, traveling and playing music is what I've always wanted to do, what I feel I was meant to do. And while my girls sometimes tell me they wish I wouldn't go, I can tell they're getting used to the idea. They just tell me to play fast so I can come home sooner. Continue reading »

ASA Trio Plays Monk

What could be more interesting than an Icelandic/American organ trio playing tunes by Thelonious Monk? Well, I'm sure there's something but I'm drawing a blank right now. It just so happens that the latest album that I play on is just that: ASA Trio Plays the Music of Thelonious Monk. How's that for a descriptive title?

I've been so busy making the album available and setting up ASA Trio's website that I neglected to even mention it on my own site… until now. There's an incredible amount of work that goes into releasing an album, even after it's released. If you want anyone to know about the album you really have to spend some time plugging it on various websites and whatnot. It takes time, but I've actually started to enjoy it. It helps when you're excited about the album, I suppose.

Partially as a result of my promotional gusto, you can hear an interview with me on The Jazz Session with Jason Crane (via where I tell all concerning ASA Trio, this album and more.

We decided to release the album exclusively via to begin with, mainly because of the amount of control BC gives artists on how they sell their music. We decided to release it digitally first, with an option to pre-order the CD with a download included. Even now that the physical CD has been released, a download is included when you order a CD and that includes pdfs of the complete artwork. A pretty sweet deal, but if you're not ready to buy, yesterday San Francisco Holiday was the "download of the day" on and it's still available, so help yourself.

We are playing a CD release concert in Reykjavik on March 24th at Slippsalurinn (Nema Forum). Come on by if you're in town.

Going North

I'll be hitting the road next week for 2 gigs to the north of Reykjavik (hard to fathom, I know). I hope the weather will allow it to happen. It can get pretty serious up here.

The dates are Thursday, Nov. 11 at Græni Hatturinn with ASA Trio and Nov. 12 in Sauðurkrókur with Thin Jim (which will include all three members of ASA). ASA Trio will also play the night before (Wednesday Nov. 10th) in Reykjavik at Risið, kicking off the Múlinn concert series.

We will also hold a special workshop at the music school in Akureyri, and teaching private lessons while we're in town.

I made this poster (quickly) and was a little shocked when I saw it printed. The colors turned out a little light and it looks like it could be wallpaper in the baby's room. Not the printer's fault, but if I had more time I would have adjusted the colors. Looks ok on the screen though.

Non-Stop Summer

And now for a little review. This summer was perhaps my busiest summer in recent memory. Beginning in late May with my trip to Spain, it really felt as if it was one thing after another. I'm not complaining, but by the end of August I was exhausted. So much so that I postponed a recording session with Óskar Guðjónsson's trio, which I was really excited about. Continue reading »